Lagos, Nov. 14, 2017 (TNE) The Country Manager of HarvestPlus Nigeria, Mr Paul Ilona, says that bio-fortified crops are natural and different from genetically modified (GM) crops, which are basically synthetic.
Ilona said this on Tuesday in Lagos, revealing that the crops are also different from foods that are fortified with vitamins and other trace minerals.
He said, for instance, scientists had identified some genes in cassava and maize that are beneficial to human’s health.
“There are no health concerns with bio-fortified crops like it is the case with GM crops.Albinos have been identified in tuber crops like cassava and grains like maize.
“Some of the tubers and grains are carriers of Vitamin A and other trace minerals. So, whatever is being done in the crop bio-fortification process is to identify the carriers of micro-nutrients and naturally accentuate the genes.
“That is why straight from harvesting, we have grey, white and orange coloured cassava varieties which you fry and get the exact colour without adding oil or any colouring material,’’ he said.
Ilona said that there are more than 3,000 varieties of cassava in the system with broad genetic forms.
He said that some of the varieties had high starch and increased level of nutrients in them.
Ilona said that HarvestPlus is introducing Vitamin A cassava stems to smallholder farmers and empowering them with machines to facilitate proper crop processing after harvest.
He said that the idea of crop bio-fortification is to curb malnutrition by fortifying basic staple foods with the necessary nutrients that could be obtained from the food which the people consumed.
Ilona, however, urged the federal and state governments to earmark funds for crop bio-fortification projects.
He said that HarvestPlus is working with the Federal University of Agriculture, Umudike, to train farm managers, as part of efforts to attract investors in the agriculture sector.
He said that high-quality custard and snacks as well as grey, orange, dark coloured cassava are currently produced from the bio-fortified Vitamin A cassava.
Ilona said that HarvestPlus has also introduced automated cassava planters, automated cassava harvesters and mobile flash driers to dry cassava tubers when processed.
Ilona said that the agency has invested heavily in women, while organising them into community organisations as a means of fighting malnutrition using bio-fortified crops.